A group of Lehigh students pose for a photo as they travel to the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
When United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed a room full of students from around the world last week, 30 undergraduate and graduate Lehigh students were in attendance.
An opportunity the Lehigh/United Nations Partnership could not resist took the students to New York City on Wednesday, Feb. 20, to hear Ban discuss the importance of education and equality.
“We have invited you because the UN is counting on each and every one of you to make our future world better,” Ban said. “We want you to be the champion for building a better future for all.”
In 2004, Lehigh became just the sixth university in the world to be recognized as an NGO by the UN Department of Public Information. The designation allows Lehigh to send students to UN conferences, private briefings by UN officials and other educational seminars held there. Lehigh students also represent international NGOs, and Lehigh hosts UN ambassadors and other delegates on campus.
Lehigh is a member of the Academic Impact organization
, a global initiative aligning the UN and more than 800 institutions of higher education to support principles related to human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution. Through this membership, students were able to listen to Ban’s address world problems and to participate afterwards in a question-and-answer session about world affairs.
“Education is the foundation of everything,” Ban said. He noted that guaranteeing universal education is one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals
, along with eradicating poverty, ensuring gender equality, improving health care and eliminating diseases.
Ban also urged the students to have passion for what they are doing.
“When you don’t have passion nothing can be done,” he said.
In honor of the more than 7,000 speeches that Ban has made around the world, the UN released a book that was promoted at the Academic Impact’s event. Building a Better Future for All: Selected Speeches of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon contains 100 speeches from 2007-2012, ranging from topics such as climate change and poverty to education and violence against women.
The students asked Ban about the Israel-Palestine conflict, sustainable development, minority rights and the Middle East.
Ban said the UN’s top priority is to address sustainable development because of the problems of climate change, world poverty and human rights.
“The world is not sustainable at this time,” he said.
Ban also said peace and stability in the Middle East had global implications. Noting that Palestine recently became a non-member observer state at the UN, he said steps were being taken in the right direction and that both Israel and Palestine should use this momentum to develop resolutions.
Ban also said he believed the Arab Spring would be regarded as a positive episode in history.
“The rights of both Palestinians and Israelis should be respected and there should be peace and security without threat,” he said.